The Fascinating True Story Of Why Aviators Say “Roger That”

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You’ve heard the two words in dozens of war films. And their usage was even parodied in the 1980 comic masterpiece Airplane! – when Leslie Nielsen’s hapless Dr. Rumack gets his “Rogers” in a tangle. But why is it that pilots and others speaking on two-way radios utter the phrase “Roger that?”

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“Roger that” – often shortened simply to “Roger” but also sometimes elongated to “Roger, over and out” – is part of the esoteric language used by aviators and various others who communicate via radio. It’s frequently employed in military contexts and just means that the previous message spoken has been received.

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Image: GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images

But why is “Roger,” a common man’s name, used? Well, going back to the origins of the usage, it was actually the word “received” that the pilot wanted to communicate in response to a message. However, with Morse code, the earliest form of radio communication – which we’ll come on to – it became simply the letter “R.” Just saying “R” on voice radio is a lot less clear than saying “Roger,” though.

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